10 things you didn’t know your website copywriter should be doing
May 8, 2023 • Glenn Murray
If you’re in the market for website copywriting services, or you’ve just engaged a web copywriter, you’re probably thinking a lot about how you’ll know they’re doing a good job.
Many people think they should be on the lookout for stunningly clever conceptual copy and a preponderance of witty one-liners. But in web copy, that usually feels like the literary equivalent of flashing animations and fluorescent Comic Sans text.
In reality, most web copy doesn’t need any of that sort of thing. It’s usually quite a bit more utilitarian than that.
That’s not to say it should be boring, though. Far from it. It should be like a good conversation; Engaging, interesting and easy to follow. And fortunately, it’s relatively easy to spot whether your web copywriter is heading in that direction with your copy. Just ensure they’re doing all of the following things…
1. Writing less
For decades, we’ve been told more is better, when it comes to web content. So it’s no wonder people believe it. As my favourite content strategist, Sally Bagshaw, puts it in this great interview:
The easiest trap to fall into is that quantity is a good thing.”
But it’s not as simple as that. When it comes to copywriting, you should always aim for less, not more. I always use as few words as possible:
Say only what you need to say, and not a word more.”
If you could convert at 100% with just one word on the page, I’d consider that the best piece of copywriting ever!
So be on the lookout for fluff. If you feel your web copywriter is using 10 words when they could use three, flag it with them. In my experience, this is usually a sign that they’re not quite sure what to say, and they’re using lots of fancy words as a smokescreen.
2. Making it conversational
If copywriting should be like a good conversation, then obviously it needs to feel that way. I don’t mean your web copywriter should be adding all the umms and arrs and interruptions that feature prominently in most spoken conversations. I only mean that it shouldn’t sound like that formal essay your misguided English teacher made you write in high school.
Your website copywriter should be doing some or all of the following:
- Starting sentences with conjunctions (e.g. “And”, “But”).
- Ending sentences with prepositions (e.g. “That’s something I’m in love with”, not “That’s something with which I’m in love”).
- Using contractions (e.g. “You’ll”, not “You will”).
These devices, alone, won’t make your website copy an instant hit, but they’ll definitely nudge it in the right direction, because they remove speed humps for the reader. (Anything that feels a little stuffy or awkward acts as a speed hump.)
3. Talking about your ‘why’
In his TED video about inspiring action, renowned author and speaker, Simon Sinek, says “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it” (go to ~3:50).
So Apple, for instance, communicates like this:
- WHY – We believe in challenging the status quo. We believe in thinking differently.
- HOW – We challenge the status quo by designing beautiful, user-friendly products.
- WHAT – We just happen to make great computers.
- Wanna buy one?
Your website copywriter should ask you what your ‘why’ is, and they should mention or allude to it somewhere in your website copy.
4. Challenging you
The customer isn’t always right, when it comes to copywriting. And if you think that’s hard for you to get your head around, imagine how hard it is for your copywriter! To a copywriter, contradicting your client can feel like biting the hand that feeds you.
But it’s essential. Unless you’re a seasoned copywriter, yourself, you probably know next to nothing about web copywriting. If your copywriter lets you ride rough-shod over them, they’re doing you a disservice.
5. Planting seeds of curiosity
The end of a paragraph is usually a very easy and tempting place for readers to stop reading. But a good copywriter can change that.
How? With what legendary copywriter, Joseph Sugarman, calls ‘seeds of curiosity’. He says they ‘grease’ the conversion slippery slide so readers keep reading ‘til they get to the end.
What’s a seed of curiosity? Well, you’ve already read one above… where I said, “But a good copywriter can change that.” That sentence didn’t sum up the first paragraph like a normal closer does; instead, it implies there’ll be a solution to the problem in the second paragraph, making you want to read on.
6. Asking ‘yes’ questions
You want your copy to convert, right? Of course you do; it’s a no-brainer. So why did I ask?
I asked because I wanted you to nod or say yes, in your head. I want you agreeing with me. Because the more you agree with me, the more likely you are to continue agreeing with me and the more likely you are to click Buy when I ask you to.
That’s psychology: People tend to behave in a way that’s consistent with their past behaviour and to develop beliefs that are consistent with their past beliefs, because this helps them avoid the discomfort of cognitive dissonance.
7. Telling a story with headings
If you’d only read the headings of this post, you’d have a reasonable idea of what the post is about.
Obviously you wouldn’t know the details, but you’d know whether you want to know the details, and you’d know where the details you’re most interested in are likely to be found.
Just as importantly, because the headings made it easier for you to scan and get your head around the scope of the article, you’ll naturally assume the rest of the article will be pretty easy to read and understand. This, in turn, will make you more likely to read more of it.
8. Ignoring your keywords
Keywords are important, don’t get me wrong. But a good website copywriter knows they should always write for visitors first. Because people pay; Google doesn’t.
Your copywriter should only start actively threading in keywords once you’ve approved the copy, from a writing and messaging point of view.
(Keywords are vital when choosing what pages to write, but that’s a ‘whole nother story’, and beyond the scope of this post.)
9. Writing in wireframes
The words on your website are only part of the story. The images, buttons, menus, frames, columns, graphical calls to action, forms, and so on, they all tell a big part of the story too.
And if you want all of those elements to work with the copy to tell the same story, then you really should be looking for a website copywriter who writes at least some of their copy in wireframes. (A wireframe is a sketch that shows the layout of a page — how everything will fit together.)
As a bonus, this will also make it a lot easier for you to review the copy, because you won’t have to use your imagination to see where all the copy elements will go. Plus, you can then provide it to your website designer, who can use it as a blueprint.
10. Guiding your web designer
The core message — the literal message — of your website comes from the web copy. And for it to be most effective, it needs to be presented just so.
If paragraph two really needs to be positioned very close to paragraph one in order to be properly understood, then your designer needs to know that, and accommodate it. If the second heading on the page needs to be above the fold for maximum engagement, your designer needs to know that too.
Unfortunately, most web designers don’t take the time to read and understand your web copy. And even when they do, they can’t be expected to know what the copywriter had in mind with every sentence.
So it’s a great idea to have your website copywriter and designer working together. Only then will the copy have maximum impact.
What do you think? Have I missed anything?
What else do you think a good website copywriter should be doing? There are definitely more than 10 things!